A good deal of honking alerted me to their approach but I was up checking on the Roses of Sharon and did not have my camera with me.
But I had been talking to a grasshopper and attempting to master the magnifier application. It works very well but I have trouble figuring out how to move photographs I take with it.
Maybe I’ve succeeded, but of course I don’t remember how. I abandoned the grasshopper and got the geese.
Surprisingly there were some flowers my mother didn’t much like, dismissing them as “untidy” or “too much work”. I don’t remember specifically, but I am fairly certain Mum would not have allowed a black flower in her garden.
On close inspection you would be right in claiming that this petunia is very deep purple but to the naked eye I can assure you these flowers looked like black velvet.
According to Google, there are no naturally black flowers, but scrolling down I learned that there is one truly black flower, the Halfeti Rose .
Many flowers that appear black like these petunias, are the result of years of careful cultivation. It’s not a subject I know anything about but I have always felt that it is wrong to interfere with Nature.
Because I was reading about rare flower colours I came upon the surprising fact that the rarest colour in flowers is BLUE.
And this led me to a confusion of information that left me unenlightened.
“Only 10% of 280,000 flowering plants have blue blossoms.”
This appears to me as very in-your-face blue but I am prepared to accept that this is just my perception.
Venturing further, I read that only one class of plants produces truly blue flowers, this being Boraginaceae.
Forget-me-nots among others.
But then I read that only Delphiniums are true blue and they are a Ranunculus.
At which point I hastily backed out.
Unlike my father, I do not have to understand every complexity that comes before me.
At the age of 88 Dad got his first and last computer which was commendable and that he could use it at all was something of an achievement.
The problem (as I perceived it) was that he needed to know the reason for all those entries that were required to get you where you wished to go.
Giving him a cheat sheet was pointless. He didn’t want to cheat. He wanted to understand.
The daily phone call tended to be an outraged cry:
“Why have they moved it?”
“Why have they changed it?”
Explaining has never been one of my talents, and attempting to do so for Dad, over the telephone was trying. So periodically I just drove over to his place.
On one celebrated occasion I spotted the problem immediately and inserted the plug in a socket.
Dad’s aide probably got the blame. She was such a nice lady. Like so many of those people, she had endless patience.
Being still employed full-time, I could not be Dad’s round-the-clock helper, nor did I have the capacity for it.
If I had had the chance, I could have cared for my mother and I would love to have had the chance to care for my aunt, but fate has its own plans.
Dad was the last of his generation, so he was the one who needed care.
After Mum died in 1997, Dad decided he would spend his winters in Australia.
A local travel agent got him organised with affordable business class seats on Royal Brunei Airlines and his accomodation came with meals provided.
It was perfect, for two years.
Then came 2000.
In June that year, Dad came to the USA and I took him on a trip around Utah. He was on good form and we actually had fun together. It was the only time I ever managed to really relax with him.
He flew home and I returned to packing for my move to Seattle and a whole new life.
Came another winter, Dad was off again.
Things went wrong when his flight was delayed indefinitely in Bandar Seri Begawan. He spent a wretched night in a local hotel disturbed by the calls of the muezzin.
The result of this was that he arrived in Australia more than usually exhausted, only to find problems with the hotel which could not meet his catering requirements.
Dad’s plan had been to spend time in Brisbane and then fly to Cairns for the rest of his holiday. As his accommodations could not be sorted, I got his arrangements changed and he flew to Cairns much sooner.
It ought to have straightened things out but it didn’t. After a couple of anxious phone calls, I told my boss I would have to go there myself.
Arriving in the small hours of the morning, I let myself in to my dad’s apartment and waited for him in the greying light of dawn, wondering what to do.
One thing was immediately obvious.
Dad was dehydrated. A nearby hospital sorted it out but his problem was much deeper.
Having his plans go wrong had caused him to lose his self confidence and now he was depressed at the idea of going back to live alone in England. He had managed far better, after my mother’s death, than I have ever imagined.
But now he was a sad, lonely old man.
After a few days wrestling with myself, I asked him if he would like to come and live in Seattle.
With a plan in place for his future, he recovered sufficiently that I could leave him to finish his holiday and I went back to Seattle feeling a little shell shocked.
When I think of that ghastly week with my father in Cairns, I always remember the people who helped me not to lose my sanity.
The hotel staff assisted me in every way they could. The hospital staff were very kind and somehow I was able to have a psychiatrist come to the hotel to see my dad.
Even Qantas helped, re-booking my father’s return flight and arranging airport assistance for him.
At one low point Dad, who had insisted a walk would be a good idea, suddenly announced that he could go no further.
We were in an open un-shaded area and it was very hot. There was nowhere to sit Dad down and no public phone, certainly no taxi rank or any possibility of one cruising by, so I rushed up to a man across the street who was holding a cell phone and begged him to call for a cab, which he promptly and very kindly did.
Rushing up to strange men is not something I am accustomed to doing. It is amazing what one does in desperation.
That week could have been so much more terrible, but forever I will have good memories of Cairns. I had been there twice before but those occasions are in a seperate part of my memory.
Dad finished his holiday and arrived back in England without further drama.
Then all we had to do was sell his house and find a new home for the poor budgie.
Dad didn’t know what to do about the bird but he was a good cartoonist. I told him to paint a picture of the bird with a thought bubble saying “I need a home”.
Dad did this and I dropped the cartoon at the pet shop in Devizes. By the time I got back to the house someone had called and birdy had a home.
It should all have been that simple!
My parents had lived for some years in Florida, obtaining permanent residency based on my US citizenship.
When they left to go back to England it never occured to me to have them come back periodically to renew their residency, so it had expired. I had to make a new application for my father.
This was long and arduous but finally Dad got an appointment for his hearing in downtown Seattle.
Dad was a precision-timer, counting down by the minute. Except that morning.
Seattle traffic is diabolical and I had factored it in to my driving time but that morning Dad was dragging his feet. I was annoyed.
Starting out late got me rattled. By the time we got to the place, we had minutes to spare so I grabbed the first available parking space and shoved Dad into his collapsible wheelchair.
By the time I had pushed my father up a very steep hill and found the appropriate office, I was out of breath as well as out of patience, but we made it.
Inevitably, having checked-in at the appointed hour, there was a long wait. Dad complained of a draft but I had no more solutions.
In due course, Dad was granted permission to reside once more in the USA.
Next morning before going to work I called to check on him and Dad complained of a stiff neck, grumbling about that damn draft.
Grumbling about cold drafts was what Dad did, so I paid no attention. Not that day nor the next.
What my dad had avoided doing all his life was seeing doctors. So when he said he thought perhaps he should, I decided I had better go round.
Dad had mentioned that his neck was a bit swollen. The size of a melon, more like.
A biopsy was taken and a few days later we went to get the results. Dad learned he had cancer.
He had no health insurance and although I knew he was far from destitute, I had no idea what his finances were.
My dad was an atheist and that diagnosis must had come as a terrible shock. He was 92 but he had firmly believed he would live to the age of 98.
As a kid I had so wanted my father to love me, but it was beyond his capacity.
That he did not want children I understand, and I even accept that he could not love his own children. It was how he was programmed. I forgave other things even though I am unable to forget them. I could feel compassion.
But I could not stop myself being as resentful as hell.
Dad was not conscious when he died and there was no perceptible change when his spirit left. It’s an awful thing, but I had nightmares long after, that he had not died, that he still needed looking after.
I used to feel so guilty about it.
I don’t feel guilty anymore. Just sad sometimes that this is the only photograph I have that shows him smiling in my company.
Then I remember those two weeks we had in Utah. We laughed together then and I can picture that in my mind, feel it in my heart.
These flowers were at the veterinary clinic